York Region Taxpayers Oppose Regressive Bill

Header-Logo

In early-2016, a delegation from the York Taxpayers Coalition traveled to Queen’s Park to speak to M.P.s from all parties in support of a democratically elected Chair of York Region Council.

Among the reasons why our organization supported this election was the insurmountable public debt accumulated by the York Regional government over the years through the system of the unaccountable Chair appointed by the Mayors and Regional Council members after a municipal election.

We noted that Regional government issues are rarely, if ever, debated during a lower tier municipal election. The 2018 election was going to be the first time in fifty years that York Region voters would get an opportunity to directly weigh in on issues that involved the level of government that impacts the lives and standard of living of approximately 1.3 million people.

In the run up to the June 8, 2018 provincial election, the Ontario PC Party, led by now premier Doug Ford, was silent on any disagreement with direct elections of the York Region Chair. In the new government’s Throne Speech of just two weeks ago, there was no mention of any impending changes.

Yet suddenly, just three months prior to the municipal election and without any prior consultation of York Region residents, Doug Ford has decided to deny York Region voters of their democratic rights.

York Region’s highest profile M.P.P.’s, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, are not York Region residents. They both reside in downtown Toronto, which is a fact that clearly clouds their judgment. They simply don’t understand the issues involving the record high debt load that impacts the lives and well being of residents to keep up with property tax increases.  If they did, they would afford the same scrutiny they do on provincial debt: in this year’s budget alone, the York Region Government is spending $5.2 billion while having amassed a debt of over $3.7 billion – the highest per capita debt load in the GTA. Toronto doesn’t have a second tier municipal government after all, so how could they understand the tax pressures we face here?

Taking voting rights from York Region residents won’t solve our public debt issues. We need direct democracy to fix the morass we find ourselves in.

Doug Ford’s rash actions on this regard calls into question his judgment over what’s best for the ratepayers of York Region.

Big Win for Taxpayers today as York Region Government staff recommends council adopt “Transparency and Accountability” policies after York Region Taxpayers Coalition Proposes the idea.

Header-Logo

 Last month, we issued a press release asking York Region Council to implement simple initiatives in order to increase transparency and accountability in light of Bill 8. And judging from council members reaction to our suggestions, we gathered they weren’t too impressed with the idea.

But it seems despite Council’s lack of interest with transparency, York Region staff took it upon themselves to recommend a “Transparency and Accountability” initiative that included our suggestions anyways.

“We’re thrilled”, said York Region Taxpayers Coalition president Maddie Di Muccio, “because staff did the right thing. This is a big win for taxpayers. Transparency is a big mandate of this organization.”

The recommendation was based on the province’s new Bill 8, introduced July 2014, that will give provincial Ombudsman Andre Marin more jurisdiction to hold municipalities accountable. Last February, we hosted a successful event featuring Mr. Marin which was attended by many local municipal councillors and staff.

Although the recommendation specifically encouraged the appointment of an Ombudsman, Georgina mayor Margaret Quirk asked for staff to include a Code of Conduct for Council members when she realized none existed.

Richmond Hill’s regional councillor Brenda Hogg made her feelings known when she explained staff’s recommendations to make York Region Council more transparent and accountable for taxpayers would “cost finances, time, and will make work come to a grinding halt.” Hogg went on to say the direction was “an overreaction” and that investigations by an integrity commissioner requested by members of the public would be used “as a political tool.”

York Region Taxpayers Coalition will continue to follow up with staff’s recommendation to implement more transparency and accountability at the Region and we will report back to our members in the fall, when staff’s report is scheduled to be brought to council.

 

-30-

Why was Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti so popular on Twitter today?

yrtc press release

York Region Taxpayers Coalition made our first deputation to York Council this morning to present the following:

• Appoint an Ombudsman to address the complaints of residents and investigate when government policies are not being followed or when services are being denied unfairly.

•  Establish an Integrity Commissioner to develop a Council Code of Conduct and create a lobbyist registry. York Region Council oversees a $2 billion annual budget but has less oversight than most of its member municipalities.

• Appoint an Auditor General to protect public funds against fraud and waste. Part of the Auditor General’s duties would be the creation of a fraud and waste whistle blower hotline to allow York Region
staff and citizens to report instances where public money is not being respected.

We didn’t get to finish the deputation though, because York Region Chair Wayne Emerson interrupted our request for additional time with a resounding “no”, limiting our opportunity to speak on our members’ behalf to a mere 5 minutes.

But Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti did have something to say. He wanted to know about an expense that was approved by the town of Newmarket’s CAO issued last term when York Region Taxpayer Coalition’s president, Maddie Di Muccio, served as a councillor. We’re not sure why Mayor Scarpitti spent over five minutes questioning an expense item  Di Muccio had or why he had so much interest in a municipality that he has no jurisdiction in – especially because in today’s meeting the mayor admitted he didn’t realize his own council was bailing out Toronto’s TTC mismanagement to the tune of $60 million with our tax dollars.

At that same meeting, Mayor Scarpitti, who rarely tweets to his constituents, bizarrely took to his Twitter to attack York Region Taxpayer’s president Maddie Di Muccio. “It was unbecoming and frankly embarrassing that a mayor of York Region’s best cities attacked the integrity of our organization,” said Di Muccio. “Our organization is non partisan and seeks to better government. We already represent thousands of members. It’s disappointing to learn that York Region Council refused to welcome our group – but rather reacted to its formation with great hostility.”

Today’s item discussion in York Region Council bailing out the city of Toronto with your money on TTC cost overruns appeared on a revised agenda after we issued our press release announcing our outrage last week- and our members demanding action as a result of that.

“We are thrilled that after today’s deputation, our members contacted us with great willingness to help. York Region Taxpayer’s Coalition is seeking donations to help restore accountability for our overburdened taxpayers,” said Di Muccio.

-30-

Time for real accountability in York Region

yrtc press release

(Newmarket, Ontario) The York Region Taxpayers Coalition (YRTC) are asking York Region Council to adopt a culture of transparency similar to the City of Toronto.

“Although Bill 8 has yet to be proclaimed in Ontario, we are asking York Region Council to be proactive about transparency,” said YRTC President Maddie Di Muccio.

Read more →